Reviews

Games in the Stacks: Hive

The Basics:

Designer: John Yianni
Game Type: Tile laying
Number of Players: 2
Playing Time: 20-25 minutes
Mechanics: Tile placement, Grid movement, Abstract strategy

A completed game of Hive.
A completed game of Hive.

The Game:

Our library has long had chess sets that players can use in the library. This classic abstract strategy game has been around for centuries, and to be honest, I’ve never been good at it. Usually I start off fine, but after a bit I get bored of the game and my ability to maintain my strategy goes down the tubes. That’s why when I found out about a more modern abstract strategy game, I was interested to learn more.

Meet Hive. Designed by John Yianni and published in 2001, this abstract strategy switches pawns for beetles, knights for spiders, and the king for the queen bee. It also ditches the standard 8×8 grid board in order to let players establish their own board known as the hive.

The Rules:

The game comes with two sets of tiles, each with their own sets of five. The five options are the grasshopper, the ant, the spider, the beetle, and queen bee. Like chess, each piece moves in their own way and has unique abilities compared to other pieces. These come into play with how pieces can move. Players take turns placing pieces in order to create the hive. To begin, one player will place a piece, then the second player will place their first piece. Play goes back and forth with players adding pieces to the hive. However, a player must play their queen bee by the fourth turn, and pieces cannot move around the hive until the queen bee is placed.

The five types of pieces used in Hive.
The five types of pieces used in Hive.

So with this talk of movement, how do the pieces move?

  • The queen bee can move one space around the edge of the hive.
  • The beetle moves one space around the hive, just like the queen bee. But it can also move one space up on top of the hive in order to prevent other pieces from moving.
  • The grasshopper can jump across the hive in one direction to the next available opening, but it must jump over at least one other piece.
  • The spider crawls around the edge of the hive exactly three spaces, no more and no less.
  • The ant can move any number of spaces around the edge of the hive, making it the most powerful piece.

There are a couple restrictions on movement. First, if a player attempts to move the piece, but can’t slide it out without disturbing the pieces around it, it’s trapped and cannot move. Similarly, a piece cannot move into a space that would disturb the pieces around it, though the grasshopper and the beetle can fall into these spaces. Second, if moving a piece would break the hive into two pieces, that piece can’t move either. At no point can there be two hives. Aside from that, movement is only restricted by the type of tile you’re moving.

The Review:

I really enjoy Hive. It’s a simple to learn game that is quick to play. Rarely do I ever get Hive out and only play one game of it. It’s just so easy to keep playing two, three, or four games. I took it to a family reunion, and a cousin saw my wife and I playing it. After watching us play one game, he already understood 90% of the rules before we explained them to him. The tiles have a nice weight to them, and a satisfying clack when they’re placed next to each other. The insect symbols are bright and colorful and help make it easy to distinguish which is which.

If I had to state a downfall to the game, there are a couple that come to mind. First, some people might be turned off of the insect theme. Nothing can be avoided with that. Some people don’t like insects. The second downfall I would say is more of a matter of personal choice than anything. When buying for my own collection, I wish I would have bought the pocket version instead of the basic version. Regular Hive does come in a nice bag that helps make it able to travel quite well. But the pocket edition fits into a nice literal pocket sized bag which makes it even nicer. Plus it includes two of the three expansions within the package. There is also a Carbon edition which makes all the tiles a clean modern black and white, and this also includes these two expansions. I don’t know why they haven’t updated the base game to include them as well. That said, I still really enjoy the Hive copy I bought, and I don’t feel it’s lacking anything because these few extra tiles aren’t in the bag. When it comes to a library collection, I would likely skip the pocket version because the tiles get smaller and are easier to lose. But the big decision would likely be between Hive and Hive Carbon. Do those extra few pieces make it worth getting the Carbon, or do you prefer the bright colorful colors of the basic Hive?

The Bottomline:

Hive is a great game. Many libraries already have chess clubs that meet there, and this is a great fit for those people who enjoy abstract strategy games. Because it only has 5 different pieces, it’s easy for someone to learn. It plays quickly, allowing several players to jump in and out quickly between games. Insects aren’t for everyone, so some people might be hesitant to play this because of the iconography. That said, I still think it’s a great game for people to play and for libraries to have. Which version of the game, standard, carbon, or pocket is a decision you’ll have to make depending on your exact collection plans. But either way, whichever version of Hive you choose is still going to be a great abstract strategy addition to your collection.

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